Among dozens of this year's contenders are stories centered on youth.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Pixar's six-minute CG short is set in a playground where the title character — a shape-shifter who assumes the appearance of items in a bin — meets a bully. "He steals to get attention. Lou exists to give things back. The bully is a perfect foil," says writer-director Dave Mullins. His message: "Treat people with kindness, and kindness will come to you."
Directed by Kariem Saleh, Song examines what happens when an adult silences his inner child through one man's struggle with a toad on his head. He's hypnotized and taken back to his childhood, where "he realizes that he has found the value of the toad," says Saleh, 31, who started the project as a student at Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany.
The short is based on Ron Koertge's poem of the same name that directors Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata found on Facebook. It examines a father-son relationship through the way the father taught his son to pack luggage. "It's about packing, but it could be about anything," says Porter of the stop-motion project. "I bonded with my father over music."